Saturday, June 30, 2007

July 7, 2007 - Day of the living dead


Since I'm a heretic I probably won't survive the Rapture, but if I want to survive a zombie apocalypse I'd better get my act together. Actually, some might consider the Rapture to be a zombie apocalypse.

Ho hum

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Lifestyles of the pious and shameless

from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

How much house does a religious leader need?

What do you think? A nice country home somewhere in the woods of England or Scotland? Perhaps Grosse Pointe, Michigan, former home of many GM execs? No, it's one of the neighboring homes of the Cleveland Episcopal diocesan bishop Mark Hollingsworth Jr. I couldn't find a picture of his Shaker Heights home, which he and his family purchased for $1.66 million dollars, that is comparable in style and structure to this one. Go to the listing site and click on the pictures to see the interior.

Granted, it's not the Vatican, but really, how much entertaining can a bishop do? Besides, all sorts of cavorting could be going on in those upper rooms with no one the wiser. A smaller home assures an accountable intimacy between guests and less chance of scandal, financial or otherwise. Then there's that line about a camel and a needle. The bishop's lot is 2.4 acres--enough grazing room for at least one camel, I'd say.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Muscle Jesus

UPDATE: This is what was missing from my last blog entry: the NRA militant, biker, nationlist Jesus. My, what muscles! He's so well-fed the Romans would have had to nail him to a couple of telephone poles. Or is this his resurrected body?

Thanks to Dennis from whom I ripped this off.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

One billion and counting

Supposedly, this portrait of Christ is the most widely reproduced of all religious works of art, about a billion times, if you include bookmarks, refrigerator magnets, and switchplates.

It's the Jesus of Sunday school, meek and mild, who pulls children onto his lap, who doesn't disturb--only comforts, who accepts his death with grave obedience. This is a good image to have; it's just incomplete. Trouble is, it's the only image some folks have.

Still others have this image of Christ:

An angry, vengeful, Jesus as Judge, separating the sheep from the goats, casting the sinful into the outer darkness, into a lake of fire, raising a bloody sword against the Enemy of God: too many folks latch onto this image and use it to fuel their own agendas while controlling their fear. Actually, this image is taken from Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth where he overturns the tables of the moneychangers and chases them out with a whip of cords. Not many of us turn to this Christ, especially in our American empire.

This image is an artist's rendering of what Jesus might have looked like, given his ethnic background and recent paleoanthropological studies. I must confess that when I see this picture I think of the apostle Paul or Peter because this guy looks a little rough around the edges. Funny that visually I don't think that way about Jesus. More Sunday school conditioning, I guess.

This image I love: a laughing baby Jesus, looking up into the heavens, into the eyes of his parents or a visitor, perhaps just laughing for the thrill of being alive like any other child. Viewing Jesus as a baby reminds me that all people started out this way, as an innocent child, and that somewhere inside of each of us, that precious baby still exists as part of who we are--everyone. I wish we would learn to treat ourselves and each other as precious children of the universe.

I also want to take on Share Cropper's challenge to list 5 things I dig about Jesus:
  1. Jesus didn't say we had to follow. He gave an invitation, albeit, a very compelling one.
  2. Jesus lost his temper, wept, changed his mind. He was human.
  3. He had compassion on those who needed it most and told off the folks in charge in no uncertain terms.
  4. He pisses me off and yet I can't help myself--I still come back again and again.
  5. He saved my life--literally, not in the popular "born again" sense. At the age of @ 14 or 15 my life took a 180 degree turn; not the events in it but how I viewed them. I came up out of the pit I was in and started taking charge of my life rather than reacting to forces beyond my control. It was then that I first began thinking about going into the ministry.

What images of Christ attract you, incline your heart and mind, repel you?

P.S. Check out this hilarious blog entry on the second coming of Christ.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Stumped at Synod

from United Church News:

Moyers challenges the UCC: Drive out the money-changers

Bill Moyers gave a rousing keynote address to a full-house this morning. He spoke truth to power and preached the Gospel as only a former Baptist can. Here are a few highlights:

He quoted Paul's inner struggle, saying that we love the truth yet live the lie. To illustrate his point Moyers went on to describe Jefferson's relationship with his slave Sally Hemmings. Though he authored the words "all men are created equal", "endowed with certain inalienable rights", still he loved her in secret and did not free the children he gave her until after his death. Not much has changed in this world. This is the war within each of us, and we need courage in order to live the truth we love so dearly.

Moyers spoke of poverty and the ever-increasing gap between the wealthy and the working poor of this country. If one hundred people were invited over to eat pie, and the pie was sliced into five pieces, one would get four slices while the other 99 would have to share one slice amongst them. Can you imagine they would fight over it? No wonder then, that we feel the way we do about government when we look at our decreasing wages and rising taxes. "We have a government of the few at the expense of the many," he declared, "and it is time to drive the rascals out!"

"God is not a conservative or a liberal, not a Democrat or a Republican--She may be a Baptist", he quipped, "but look at the record to see whose side God is on: the widow and the orphan, the poor and the outcast". "Nothing seems to embarass the political class these days," he lamented. Indeed, we are the richest nation with the hightest percentage per capita of children at risk. "Too many children are being left behind, despite the slogan", he said pointedly. Yes, he was preaching to the converted, but sometimes it's good to be reminded of how difficult yet compelling the gospel message is.

It was a wonderful morning.

On the other hand....

The Audacity of Obama

I thought to myself before this afternoon, that Barack Obama had better not stump during his address. This is a church gathering, his church, and I wanted to hear about his faith and how it influences his public policy, not campaign boilerplate. There was some of the former but he also crossed the line into what he was going to do in his first term if elected. In the end he pulled back and went to Scripture, to Deuteronomy 30, calling us the 'Joshua generation', the ones who do the hard work of getting to the promised land. Trouble is, they had to kill a whole lot of people to live there. Sounds like we're right on track.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Holding on

There's a guy named Mark who's having a hard time living in this world and contemplating taking himself out of it. Lots of folks have reached out to him, many who have been in the dark place where he is now and have survived. I know that dark place too but have not crawled so far in that I could not see any light at all.

One thing that helps me is to remember the process of giving birth. Even though there is life coming, it also hurts more than anything else ever has. There are times when I wanted to give up. But breathing, really working at breathing, squeezing the stuffing out of my husband's hands, listening to the midwife read the words from Isaiah 43:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shalll not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I try to remember these things when the darkness closes in tightly, like a contraction within my middle; that it will pass, like a storm cloud overhead, and that holding hands through a storm is one of God's greatest gifts.

The choir director of my church asked if I would sing "Be Still My Soul" this Sunday as an anthem. The version he gave me had a different translation I had never heard before, but lent itself beautifully to the slow, ballad-like tempo that he played. I had read Mark's blog yesterday afternoon, then read these words last night at rehearsal. This is my prayer for him.

Be still, my soul
The Lord is on thy side;
Stand calm within
The storm of grief and pain.

Trust in thy God to order and provide;
Through every change
God’s faithful light remains.
Be still my soul, the restful peace within
Through trying times
Leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul;
The wind and waves shall know
The voice who ruled them
While he dwelt below.

Torment and doubt have slipped into the past;
All darkened mysteries
Shall shine at last.
God’s burning sun shall melt the ice of fear;
Lift up your heart,
God’s soothing voice to hear.

Be still, my soul
When light you cannot see,
And trembling skies
Speak to the fear in thee.

The face of God illuminates the night
Unending peace and trust in perfect light.
Be still my soul, when tears fall from above;
You are divine,
Eternally in love.

Hold on, Mark. Please get some help. And remember to breathe and not give up.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


This was the children's moment this past Sunday, given by our Associate Pastor. The funniest moment was when she read number 6 and the Senior Pastor's 17-year-old son raised his hand. It was especially humorous considering he is a Scoutmaster!

Today is Father’s Day! Happy Father’s Day to all the dads and granddad’s out there! Our Bible verse today is from the Book of Proverbs and it says, "Listen, my sons (and daughters), to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding." How many of you listen to the wise things that your father says to you? I made a list of the top ten “wisdom sayings” I heard growing up from my dad. As I read them off, I want you raise your hand if you have ever heard them from your dear old Dad.

10. Why? Because I said so!

9. Just wait 'till you have kids of your own.

8. This is going to hurt me a lot more than it hurts you.

7. Do I look like I'm made out of money?

6. No! We are NOT lost.

5. Not now, I'm checking the score.

4. When you break your leg, don't come running to me!

3. What did I just get finished telling you?

2. Be quiet! Can't you see I'm trying to think?

And Dad's best piece of wisdom.....(drumroll)

1. How should I know? Ask your mother!

Well OK… maybe your father doesn't always have all the right answers. I think that maybe God put the two of you together so that you could learn from each other. Your father is older, has far more experience, and has a lot to teach you. I hope that you remember to thank your dad today for what he has taught you. I hope that you pray that God gives him the strength and wisdom he needs to be your dad.

Let’s pray together… Dear God, thank you for our dads. We pray that you will bless them with the wisdom needed to be good fathers. Amen.

A few tears filled my eyes during the prayer. My father died when I was 19. Most Father's Days I focus on my husband and what a wonderful father he is to our daughters. Every now and then his absence makes itself known and surprises me. It doesn't matter how much we've grown, we're still our parents' children and we still need them. I have found other men who are like a father to me, but still it is not the same as having the one who raised you. So, yeah, I believe in the corny notion of being reunited one day, because I was robbed of his presence, of watching him with his granddaughters. He would have celebrated his 69th birthday this fall.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Parable of the Twins

Next week I will be officiating at a funeral with another pastor from a neighboring church. He offered to read this story as part of the funeral, saying that it was about life after death and that many people find it comforting. I had never heard of the story and went in search of it. I'd like to know what you think of it.

Once upon a time, a set of twins were conceived in the same womb.

Weeks passed, and the twins developed. As their awareness grew, they laughed for joy, "Isn't it great that we were conceived? Isn't it great to be alive?"

Together the twins explored their world. When they found their mother's cord that gave them life they sang for joy, "how great is our mother's love that she shares her own life with us."

As the weeks stretched into months the twins noticed how much each was changing.

"What does this mean?", asked the one.

"It means that our stay in this world is drawing to an end", said the other one.

"But I don't want to go", said the one, "I want to stay here always."

"We have no choice", said the other, "but maybe there is life after birth!"

"But how can it be?" responded the one. "We will shed our life cord, and how is life possible without it? Besides, we have seen evidence that others were here before us and none of them have returned to tell us that there is life after birth."

And so the one fell into deep despair saying, "If conception ends with birth, what is the purpose of life in the womb? It's meaningless! Maybe there is no mother at all."

"But there has to be", protested the other. "How else did we get here? How do we remain alive?"

"Have you ever seen our mother?", said the one. "Maybe she lives in our minds. Maybe we made her up because the idea made us feel good."

And so the last days in the womb were filled with deep questioning and fear and finally the moment of birth arrived.

When the twins had passed from their world, they opened their eyes and cried, for what they saw exceeded their fondest dreams.

Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on people what God has prepared for those who love Him (or Her).

For 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we too are his offspring.'

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Freedom and responsibility, Part Duh!

from Google News:

Judge sues over lost trousers

He wouldn't take another pair that had cuffs--he never wears cuffs! The Korean family that own the cleaners offered him $10,000--he wouldn't take it. He's suing the pants off this hard-working family (to the tune of $54 M) because they lost one pair of his.

A decision will be rendered on Friday.

COMMENT: Now that's what I call a trousersnake, SpongeRoy No-Pants.

The random eight meme

I have been tagged by Share Cropper--thanks, babe!

  • I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.

  • Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

  • People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

  • At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

  • Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Eight random facts/habits--I don't know if there are eight of those that will not induce a yawn or a trip to the bathroom but I'll try.

  1. I was born on an Air Force base in Texas (of all places) and baptized by an Air Force chaplain. We lived there for only six months or so before we moved onto Biloxi, MS where my brother was born.
  2. I love the aroma of coffee and bacon. When I was a small child, we visited my grandparents in Hattiesburg, MS. My grandfather would start the coffee and bacon for breakfast, which I could smell from my bedroom on the second floor at the other end othe house. Since I didn't see them very often (we lived in MA), it made the trip that much more special.

  3. Toilet paper with the end over the top. It's easier to reach. (Hey, it's a habit.) Sometimes I fold it into a triangle like they do in hotels.

  4. I was married on the anniversaries of Stonewall and the United Church of Christ--June 25. It will be thirteen years.
  5. From ages 8 to 13 I went to a dance hall every Saturday where I learned square, line, and folk dances. We did different activities during the year: an exhibition dance in a McDonald's parking lot; a mystery drive to my old elementary school that was hosting a square dance; square dancing on our bicycles, in the rain, hopping on one foot, in the grass with bare feet, with a lemon in our mouths, with paper bags over our feet. At the end of every year we went to Natick, MA to dance in the New England Folk Festival. I wore a skirt with a petticoat underneath that would swish when I moved and learned how to dance the boy's part as well, since there were more girls than boys in our group.
  6. When my husband is out of town or coming home late, I cannot go to bed at our usual time of 10 p.m. I end up reading a book, watching TV or surfing the Internet until I am bleary-eyed.

  7. I wear glasses for driving, watching TV and movies, and preaching (so I can see faces). I used to wear them all the time. But since I have turned 40 I can no longer wear them while I am eating, reading, crocheting, or working on the computer. So I hang them in the neckline of my blouse.

  8. I did not learn how to ride a bike until I was 10. Too scared of injury and pain. Still am. I gave birth naturally to two babies, breastfed them for a year and half each, but I am still afraid of falling off my bike. I also don't ski or skate. I would rather go sledding or tubing on my butt, since that is where I'll end up anyway.

I'm not going to tag anyone, partly because most of my blogfriends have already done this, partly because I'm chicken to tag anyone. So, if you're reading this and you wish to participate, consider yourself tagged. Let me know in the comments of this post so that I can pop over and read your entry.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Freedom and responsibility

TB should stand for 'too bad' for this guy. He sounds like a child caught in the act, defending himself: "But you didn't say I couldn't go to my friend's house." Even as I hear myself saying "the guy should be a lawyer", actually, he shouldn't. I wouldn't want to hire someone who tries to squirm his way out of responsibility. (DOH! He is a lawyer. Quelle surprise!)

Tuberculosis (one of my spelling words that I aced in 5th grade) is a serious disease. I don't care if he wasn't considered contagious. You don't go off on your honeymoon with TB! How romantic is that! The words in sickness and in health do not mean infecting your beloved right after the wedding. Just because no one told him to stay home doesn't mean that he is not responsible for his actions. There is a "lump three feet above [our asses]" (name the movie, Andy) that we're supposed to use to make decisions, as in, "I have TB, a deadly disease. I have a new wife. Should I make her happy or should I make her sick? Hmm."

In a related story, as I was traveling home from Mexico, I spoke with a seatmate who was well-travelled. He spoke of being in Spain once, on a occasion when a friend of his was drunk and unable to walk home. A local constable took notice of his inebriated state, ascertained where he lived, walked him to his door, unlocked it for him, helped him inside, then locked him in his apartment to sleep it off. My seatmate thought this was a bit too much and was thankful that he lived in a free country.

Yes, we are free to get drunk, get into our cars, and drive, possibly hit someone, kill them, and then face the music for our behavior. Frankly, I like the proactive, compassionate approach given above.

I am very weary of the increasingly American behavior of lifting up virtues, such as freedom, autonomy, faith, life, waving them around like a flag, absent of their corresponding sister virtues: responsibility, covenant, reason, and love. Some guy in an old book said it much more eloquently than I, that if we have not love, we have nothing. If we do not have reason, we have fanaticism. If we do not have covenant, we have everyone for themselves. If we do not have responsibility, well, just take a look at how we live versus most of the earth's inhabitants. We call this freedom and are very proud of it, thank you very much. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is watching us, breathing threats and murder, and we cry foul.

Enough, I say! Enough!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

If you think bouncing back after a mission trip is hard

... try rising from the dead.

I'm back but I'm beat. I came back early from the trip (late Friday night) so that I could perform a wedding ceremony for friends on Saturday. Today I'm beginning a part-time gig for a church in lower Fairfield County, having to interview persons to find a responsible one to care for my children two days a week this summer, and still many other promises to keep.

I'm working on two poems about the trip, which I'll post in the near future. If you haven't already, go to Simply Smiles and read about our work for the week.

You can also read about last year's trip here and here.